Levy/Pissler, Charity with Chinese Characteristics

  • Agnes Schick-Chen, Moderator
  • Katja Levy, Author
  • Knut Benjamin Pissler, Author

Why do Chinese set up charitable foundations? How do Chinese foundations operate in the People’s Republic of China? Which role can and do they play in the authoritarian system? What is the legal and political framework in which they operate? And how do they cope with it?
Katja and Knut Benjamin have conducted extensive fieldwork and document analysis to answer these and other questions about charitable foundations in China. On the occasion of the publication of their book “Charity with Chinese Characteristics: Chinese Charitable Foundations between Party-state and Society”, the two authors will share their insights on one important actor in China’s charity sector.

Do We Need to Get More Involved? Which Role(s) for China Scholars in the Increasingly Heated European China Debate(s)?

  • Marina Rudyak
  • Nicholas Loubert
  • Igor Rogelja
  • Konstantinos Tsimonis

China’s emergence as an authoritarian superpower reveals a huge need on the side of the EU and its members to invest in knowledge. Presently, there is a huge asymmetry of knowledge: China knows the EU countries much better than vice versa, which is partly caused by the language barrier. There are very few experts in Europe who are literate in China, the majority of existing China analysis relies on translated sources—while only a fraction of all Chinese sources gets translated. But the big question that needs to be resolved is how to mobilise the knowledge now and how to train the next generation of China-literate experts, given that Europe-wide the number of student enrolment in Chinese studies drops rapidly every time China’s image worsens? Do we need an EU funded China competence centre that does specifically “China decoding” and also trains students in that skill?

The History of Chinese Buddhist Literature in Relation to the Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Arts

  • Organised by Fo-Guang-Shan-Tempel, Berlin e.V. and College of Humanities, Fo Guang University.
  • Venerable Yungdong, The Development and Evolution of Blood Writing Sutra in Chinese Buddhism (中國佛教刺血寫經的發展與演變)
  • L. H. Hsiao, The Construction Method of the History of Chinese Buddhist Literature (《中國佛教文學史》建構的方法論)
  • Yen-Chiu Tu, The Study on the Bao-Liang’s Thought of Paramarthasunyata (寶亮第一義空思想研究)
  • Li-Ling Liang, The Development and Characteristics of Buddhist Scripture Translation Literature in the New Translation Period (新譯時期佛經翻譯文學的發展與特色)
  • Jen-Yu Lin, The Manuscripts’ Type and Application of Dunhuang Buddhist Hymns (敦煌佛教讚歌的寫本類型與應用)
  • Chin Yi Wu, The study about Buddhist Delight Poems of Bai Juyi (白居易禪悅詩研究)
  • Wan Chun Chiu, Comparative Research between the Guanyin Records of Miraculous Responses and Tales of Numinous Manifestation in the Lotus Sutra (觀音應驗記與法華應驗記比較研究)
  • Susan Hu, The Formation of Monastic Literati (詩文僧的形成)

Chinese Buddhist literature began with the translation of Buddhist scriptures. It covers three categories: Buddhist scripture literature, Monastic Literature and Literati Buddhist literature. It runs through more than two thousand years since the Eastern Han Dynasty, the initiation of the Buddhist scripture translation. In addition to the literature of translated Buddhist scriptures itself, many other literary styles have been introduced by propagating the translated Buddhist scriptures, such as narrative literature, parable literature, Bianwen (illustration of the Buddhist scriptures), novels, operas, etc. In respect of the length of history, the breadth of literature and the depth of cultural impact, a book specific to the history of Chinese Buddhist literature is indeed needed for an overall vision and perspective. The History of Chinese Buddhist Literature containing two volumes edited by Professor L. H. HSIAO and co-authored by more than 20 experts and scholars in the field of Buddhist literature elaborates on the evolution of Buddhist literature from Han and Wei through Ming and Qing Dynasties. On the occasion of the publication of the 2 first volume of The History of Chinese Buddhist Literature, the workshop will present a series of related papers on the history of Buddhist literature, which aims to intrigue much more academic attention to this issue. (中國佛教文學始於佛經翻譯,涵蓋了佛 經文學、僧人文學和文人佛教文學三大範疇,從東漢以降,貫穿二千餘年,除了佛經 本身的翻譯文學外,更注入了許多新文體,諸如敘事文學、譬喻文學、變文、小說、 戲曲等,無論從歷史的長度、文學的廣度或對文化影響的深度,都需要一部專門的史 書來提供完整的視野。《中國佛教文學史》由蕭麗華教授主編,匯集了二十多位佛教 文學領域的專家學者共同撰寫,全套分上下兩冊,系統性地論述了從漢魏以至明清佛 教文學的流變。值《中國佛教文學史》上冊出版之際,本次活動之工作坊將發表一系 列佛教文學史的相關論文,拋磚引玉,廣邀學界共同關注。)

The Study of Chinese Divination as a Field of Research

  • Organised by Michael Lackner and Matthias Schumann

Divination, broadly defined as the various practices and techniques that aim to reveal the hidden significance of events or knowledge related to the future, is an almost ubiquitous phenomenon in Chinese societies past and present. For the last ten years, the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg Fate, Freedom and Prognostication: Strategies for Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe has explored the numerous Chinese divinatory practices and their changing role in society from an interdisciplinary perspective. From the technical practices based on the Book of Changes to the inspired prognostications of temples mediums, the numerous visiting fellows that conducted research at the Consortium showed the variety of divinatory practices, their differing social assessment and their surprising persistence in light of legal prescriptions and modernist critiques. However, the widespread engagement in divination in Chinese societies—historically shared by both commoners and the literati elites—calls for further explanation and systematic study. The Consortium has therefore in recent years established the study of
divination as a distinct field of research. To that effect, an International Society for the
Critical Study of Divination, an academic journal—The International Journal of Divination and Prognostication—as well as a book series have been established. During an interactive session that begins with a brief introduction of the Consortium and its research, the field of divination studies and the related publication platforms will be discussed with interested scholars.

Local Gazetteers Research Tools

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG)

  • Sean Wang, Organiser
  • Dagmar Schäfer, Chair
  • Shih-Pei Chen
  • Calvin Yeh

Since 2013, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) has been conducting research on Chinese local gazetteers by transforming printed materials into a scholarly, enhanced database for new forms of digital historical analysis. Central to this effort is the development of the Local Gazetteers Research Tools (LoGaRT). LoGaRT is a suite of digital tools developed to transform texts in Chinese local gazetteers into structured data, to systematically explore and annotate images and illustrations, to perform historical and literary analyses at different scales, and to visualise research results. These digital features enable scholars to ask new research questions at a scale that were difficult to address previously.

This proposed EACS session will be an interactive workshop, and attendees should bring their laptops with Google Chrome installed. We will (1) introduce LoGaRT and the research program on Chinese local gazetteers at MPIWG; (2) explain a digital methodology for generating structured historical datasets for research; and (3) provide a low-stress space for a hands-on exploration of LoGaRT and its features. Specifically, attendees will get a chance to try conducting both text- and image-focused research on local gazetteers within LoGaRT. By the end of the workshop, the attendees will have gained an understanding of the philosophy and methodology behind LoGaRT and a foundation for further exploration, as well as the ability to generalise the digital methodology behind LoGaRT for researching large collections of textual or image sources.

Special requirements: Reliable Wi-Fi connections and power outlets; the maximum number of attendees is as many as the Wi-Fi network could reliably handle.

Practices and Imaginaries of ‘Ecological Civilisation’ in Contemporary China

9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room 5

  • Organised by Yulia Mylnikova and Jessica Imbach
  • Yulia Mylnikova, Chair
  • Jessica Imbach, “Eco-Futurism in Chinese Science Fiction”
  • Lena Kaufmann, “Linking Farm Chemicals and Migration: A Socio-Technical Perspective on the Practical Hurdles to an ‘Ecological Civilisation’ in China”
  • Yulia Mylnikova, “The Prospects of ‘Eco-Youths’ in China”
  • Polina Rysakova, “China’s Eco-Tourism in Post Covid Times”

This panel brings together five scholars of China from fields including anthropology, environmental humanities, history, and social studies to discuss China’s contradictory pursuit of global leadership towards a low-carbon, resilient ecological future. Four of the panelists will present their research on a wide range of issues, including sustainability-oriented practices, techniques and policy applications, and representations and imaginaries of a green future in relation to the question of “ecological civilisation.” What are the approaches to the concept and practice of ecological civilisation in contemporary China? What are the perspectives and policy applications for resilient green futures in China in the century of climate change? Such questions are especially relevant these days, as the Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated questions of planetary livelihood. What seemed to be a secure vision of the future ~ urban, smart, green, connected, equitable ~ has been called into question. Have cities become more risky? Have rural spaces become more valuable? Focusing on the entanglements of ecology, economic development and cultural practices, this panel interrogates, the most pressing issues, practices, and imaginaries at hand in engagements with the environment and ecological change in China.

Jessica Imbach, “Eco-Futurism in Chinese Science Fiction

A green future has become a central promise of the Chinese state and the environment is playing an increasingly important role in China’s bid to promote itself as a political alternative to the West. While state environmentalism and its promotion of “ecological civilisation” (shengtai wenming ⽣态⽂明) have so far proven more aligned with economic and political interests rather than environmental goals, negotiations of Chinese eco-futurism are also taking place in contemporary culture production, notably science fiction. Taking science fiction by Liu Cixin, Han Song, and Hao Jingfang, among others, as its point of departure, this paper interrogates the historical, aesthetic, and political underpinnings of Chinese futurology from both local and global perspectives. As a state promoted sector of the Chinese creative industries, science fiction reflects the symbolic and economic importance of science and technology to China’s growth and self-image. But as a dynamically developing protocol of literary production and cultural expression, science fiction also foregrounds the social agency of technology within the Chinese cultural sphere. This paper probes into recent articulations of eco-futurism in science fiction to analyse the situated entanglements of the technological and the ecological in Chinese discourses of the Anthropocene.

Lena Kaufmann, “Linking Farm Chemicals and Migration: A Socio-Technical Perspective on the Practical Hurdles to an ‘Ecological Civilisation’ in China”

During the recent Anti- This paper investigates the social and environmental implications of (post-)Green Revolution technologies, in particular farm chemicals. Due to government promotion, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has risen from almost zero before the 1950s to environmentally alarming amounts today. In Hunan province alone, this has contributed to the contamination of three quarters of the rice fields. As a response, in 2015 the central government announced the Zero-Growth Action Plan for Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides, a target which was reportedly reached ahead of time in 2017. Nevertheless, China still uses more farm chemicals than any other country in the world. Based on written and ethnographic data from Hunan and taking into account the farmers’ perspectives, this paper explores some of the socio-technical rationales behind farmers’ use of farm chemicals. It shows that, while many interviewed farmers also used organic farming methods for the food grown for personal consumption, when it came to marketing, they generally seemed not to be concerned much with concepts such as “ecological civilisation.” Instead, they had much more practical concerns. The paper argues that farm chemicals play an important role in farmers’ household strategies in the context of rural-urban migration. In view of environmental protection, this implies that if related policies are to be successful, policy makers need to take a much broader perspective on the issue and include areas such as migration, rather than merely focusing on the reduction of farm chemicals alone.

Yulia Mylnikova, “The Prospects of ‘Eco-Youths’ in China

This paper will explore the prospects for a sustainable future for Chinese villages from an environmental point of view and the role of young people in this process. Over recent years, young Chinese women and men have become increasingly disillusioned with the gruelling work conditions, society’s expectations and never-ending competition that constitutes living in the country’s major cities, leading many to adopt a range of alternative lifestyles—from extreme saving, to “going back to nature” and alternative food networks. Environmental concerns in general have received an extra impetus from the COVID-19 crisis, which has caused many in China to review their priorities and question society’s overwhelming focus on economic growth. Despite reports of food safety and quality scandals, China has a rapidly expanding green agriculture and food sector. It’s a new movement focused on ecological agriculture and quality food. Eco-farms enthusiasts, NGOs, farmers’ markets, alternative food networks are initiated by diversely motivated groups of primarily young, university-educated people, who returned from the city with knowledge and ideas they gained from their urban experience. These «new farmers» born after 1980, and therefore raised after the «reform and opening» to the West, never experienced famines, collectivized farms, food rationing, or rural hardship of the Mao era, as their parents did. Will these new trends in society become the prelude to an alternative rural modernity that leads to a more fundamental rural development paradigm shift in China? How will the youth of China approach the many challenges and possibilities of an ecological civilisation?

Polina Rysakova, “China’s Eco-Tourism in Post Covid Times

Last several decades China’s government at different levels put much emphasis at developing so-called eco-tourism. Since 1990s China was striving to launch various programs to implement eco-tourism plans. Recently political agenda concerning “construction of ecological civilisation,” “beautiful China” provided a new impetus for these plans. Today the development of eco-tourism in China is guided by newly derived plan for 2016–2025 years, which gives priority to the following areas—Mangang Eco-tourism Area in the Northeast Plain, Eco-tourism area in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, Northern Desert and Grassland Eco-tourism Area, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Eco-tourism Area, Eco-tourism area in the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River, Eastern Plain Hilly Eco-tourism Area, Eco-tourism area of the Pearl River Basin. However, for many years China’s eco-tourism development was criticized for undistinguished resemblance with mass tourism, while the main purpose of tourism activities were related to economic gains rather that principles of ecological protection in the highly developed Eastern part of the country with high population density. But we can suppose that this situation can change in the nearest future in post-Covid reality. First of all today’s ecotourism is intertwined with economic programs for poverty reduction and overall development of remote countryside regions. It goes hand by hand with rural tourism to small places. Besides the main attitudes of Chinese customers have also change, as many tourists strive to visit new authentic little known places. Finally, virtual online “cloud tourism” to small remote places also serves as an attractor for real visiting.

The Xi Administration and Governance Reforms

Changes and Challenges
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room A

  • Organised by Congrui Qiao
  • Congrui Qiao, Chair
  • Congrui Qiao, “Regulating Government Sanctions on the ‘Untrustworthy’: An Inquiry into Internal and External Controls”
  • Straton Papagianneas, “Automated Justice and the Idea of Fairness in the PRC”
  • Adam Knight, “Going Viral: COVID-19 and the Road to China’s Social Credit Law”

The Chinese State Governance has featured several far-reaching changes since the inception of Xi Jinping administration in 2013. Whereas an increasing application of data technologies has improved efficiency and efficacy of China’s State governance, critics submit that an unprecedented scale-up of ‘smart’ governance by State organs is more menacing than auspicious.

In respect of the government functioning, the ‘Pilot Zones for Big Data Integration’ have been set up in both developed regions (e.g. Beijing and Tianjin) and under-developed ones (such as Guizhou) that is experimenting the ‘smart government’ that will be able to utilise economic and social data in optimising government decisions. As regards the judiciary functioning, the Supreme Court in Beijing has announced the national plan to ‘smartise’ judicial processes where court decisions will be ultimately automated and human interference will be minimal.

In light of these recent and rapid developments, we shall focus on two of the most important areas of State governance: the judiciary and the government. More specifically, we will make sense of major normative and instrumental changes to the judicial system and the government over the past decade, and examine whether and to which extent they have ensured both effectiveness and fairness in adopting these changes.

Congrui Qiao, “What Constitutes A Riddle? On the Notions of Chinese ‘Riddles’ in Imperial Chinese Sources and their Understanding by ‘Modern’ Western Scholars”

Digitalisation offers opportunities for the State governance to function ‘smart’, and at the same time, poses challenges to the protection of personal rights. It is particularly topical in the context of the implementation of the Social Credit System (“SCS”) in China. While the European Union has adopted a prudent approach to the processing of personal information as exemplified in the enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation in 2018, China’s approach seems different.

Several implementations of the SCS are currently high-profile in the news and academic debates, a most controversial one being the sanction on the ‘untrustworthy’ (shi xin ren/失信人). This widely applied mechanism of publicising personal information and restricting economic and social activities of the ‘untrustworthy’ alleges to punish and deter credit breaches.

It, however, remains unclear whether the government decision to sanction the ‘untrustworthy’ is lawful and subject to internal and external regulations? To answer that question, two points will be examined in my paper: first, legal bases for the government to impose sanctional decisions on the ‘untrustworthy’ (i.e., lawful grounds and scopes); and, second, regulatory mechanisms for reviewing the government’s sanctional decisions on the ‘untrustworthy’ and addressing complaints thereof (i.e., the review and appeal procedures). For each point, I shall study relevant law and regulation adopted by the State, as well as major cases rising from the implementation phase. I will conclude with some remarks on the consistency of internal and external control norms and their implementations.

Straton Papagianneas, “Automated Justice and the Idea of Fairness in the PRC”

The digitalisation and automation of the judiciary, also known as judicial informatisation, (司法信息化) has been ongoing for two decades in the PRC. The latest development is the emergence of “smart courts” (智慧法院), which are part of the Chinese party-state’s efforts to reform and modernise its judiciary. These are legal courts where the judicial process is conducted digitally, and judicial officers use technological applications sustained by algorithms and big-data analytics. The end-goal is to create a judicial decision-making process that is fully conducted in an online judicial ecosystem where the majority of tasks are automated and opportunities for human discretion or interference are minimal. This article asks how automation and digitalisation might influence judicial fairness in the PRC?

First, it discusses the Chinese conception of judicial fairness through a literature review. It finds that the utilitarian conception of fairness is a reflection of the inherently legalist and instrumentalist vision of law. This is turn, also influences the way innovations, such as judicial automation are assessed. Then, it contextualises the policy of ‘building smart courts,’ launched in 2017, which aimed to automate and digitalise the judicial process. The policy is part of a larger reform drive that aims to recentralise judicial power and standardise judicial decision-making.

Next, it analyses how automation and digitalisation have changed the judicial process, based on court and media reports of smart court applications. The final section discusses the implications of automation and digitalisation for judicial fairness in the PRC. The article argues that, within the utilitarian conceptualisation of justice and law, automated justice can indeed be considered fair because it improves the quality of procedures to the extent that they facilitate the achievement of the political goals of judicial reform and the judiciary in general.

This article is preliminary in the sense that it is based on government documentation acquired through the Internet. Therefore, the conclusions of this article should not be understood as final. They are arguments on the development of algorithmic governance and judicial automation that will have to be tested in further fieldwork-based research in the PRC itself.

Adam Knight, “Going Viral: COVID-19 and the Road to China’s Social Credit Law”

As the scale of the governance challenge brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, the Chinese state mobilised a wide variety of governing tools at its disposal, including the Social Credit System (SCS). The system was adapted both to assist in pandemic-fighting efforts as well as to mitigate harm arising from its continued operation in unforeseen circumstances. Updates to social credit blacklisting systems were issued, points scoring mechanisms were adapted and a raft of local legislation pushed the SCS further into citizens’ lives than ever before.

Yet just as in government at large, the pandemic also provided a stress test for the SCS. The crisis further highlighted and even exacerbated many of the issues that have plagued the SCS since its launch. Its fragmentation on the one hand ensures flexibility and adaptability, but also makes national or even regional interoperability awkward and even impossible. New debates around the applicability and even legality of the SCS surfaced. Many of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 response are evident in the subsequent development of China’s Social Credit Law (at the time of writing, this law was under review and due to be announced imminently). Drawing on central and local government documents as well as media reporting, this article reviews both the short-term and long-term development prospects of the SCS with particular emphasis on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on governance in China.

Making History through Literature

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

  • Organised by Xiaojing Miao and Clara Luhn
  • Antje Richter, Chair
  • Clara Luhn, “Towards a Typology of the Use of Letters in Sanguo zhi biographies”
  • Xiaojing Miao, “The Voice of the Defeated: Presenting History in Literature”
  • Kangni Huang, “The Playwright among His Plays: The Case of Ruan Dacheng”

In the study of literature, historical texts are often consulted for background information that may contribute to a better understanding of literary texts. Yet we often forget that literature has long played a significant role in fashioning what we call history today, including providing materials for historical texts, delineating the contour of history, and challenging the authority of the so-called “official history.” In this panel, we will discuss the ways in which premodern literati shaped history through literature. The four papers in our panel approach this topic from different perspectives. Xiaojing Miao, by discussing two poems written the prominent scholar-official Xie Hui and the great poet Li Bai, explores how some premodern Chinese literati, when being on the side of the defeated, constructed historical narratives from viewpoints that contradicted those of the official history. Kangni Huang applies the notion of “media ecology” to the texts surrounding the historical figure Ruan Dacheng in order to illustrate the process of mediation contemporaneous with the making of history. Kerstin Storm’s paper focusses on themes and motives of age and ageing that are used in constructing personal as well as family history in the poetry from the Tang and Song dynasties. Clara Luhn examines the different purposes to which letters are quoted in the Sanguo zhi in order to sharpen our understanding of the historical text and the intentions behind it and to better understand the letters themselves.

Clara Luhn, “Towards a Typology of the Use of Letters in Sanguo zhi biographies”

One of the main sources of poetry and short prose before the Tang dynasty are historical texts, mainly the dynastic histories. The Sanguo zhi 三國志 (History of the Three States), finished by Chen Shou 陳壽 (233–297 CE) between 280 and 290 CE and extensively commented on by Pei Songzhi 裴松之 (372–451 CE), covers the period of the states Wei 魏, Shu 蜀, and Wu 吳, which arose after the fall of the Later Han dynasty. In their depiction of the period, Chen Shou and Pei Songzhi make ample use of primary sources and include a plethora of texts in the form of direct quotations. In the biographical chapters, many of these texts are letters either composed by, addressed to, or written with reference to the persons concerned. It is well known that historical texts are composed from a subjective stance, often with a certain agenda in mind. This extends to the usage of the letters quoted in those texts. They are included by compilers for specific purposes. Using biographies in the Sanguo zhi as examples, this paper will point out those purposes and make an attempt at classifying them. Through this, it hopes to sharpen our understanding of the historical text and the intentions behind it while also gathering information on how to understand the letters themselves.

Xiaojing Miao, “The Voice of the Defeated: Presenting History in Literature”

The so-called “official histories” (zhengshi 正史) that claim to offer faithful accounts of historical events were often composed by the victors. However, premodern Chinese literati who were on side of the defeated also had the power to construct historical narratives from their viewpoints, especially through literature. This is exactly what the prominent scholar-official Xie Hui 謝晦 (390–426) and the great poet Li Bai 李白 (701–762) did. Right before his execution, Xie Hui composed the poem Bei rendao 悲人道, where he presents important political events of the Liu-Song dynasty, including his dethronement of Emperor Shao (r. 422–424) and a rebellion against Emperor Wen 文 (r. 424–453), from his point of view. As for Li Bai, he was exiled to the far southwest due to his involvement with the Prince of Yong 永, Li Lin 李璘 (720–757), whose army was defeated by Emperor Suzong 肅宗 of the Tang 唐 (r. 756–762) during the An Shi Rebellion. In his long autobiographical poem presented to the governor of Jiangxia 江夏, Li Bai offers his account of the role the prince played during the rebellion. In this paper, I will examine these two poems in detail, thus considering ways in which medieval literati constructed historical narratives in favour of the defeated as well as the interplay between history and literature.

Kangni Huang, “The Playwright among His Plays: The Case of Ruan Dacheng

A twentieth-century discipline, media studies is premised upon the idea that the seemingly neutral carrier of the message, namely, a “medium,” is shaped by and in turn, shapes ideology. As Marshall McLuhan famously declared, “the medium is the message.” In the 1990s, Neil Postman, among others, brought in a term originated from biology to promote the study of “media ecology.” A further attempt to denaturalise what appears to be neutral, media ecology aims to juxtapose human agents and various media technologies in order to reevaluate the interrelations among them. This paper is an attempt to understand the making of history through the concept of media ecology. Examining the materials surrounding the historical figure Ruan Dacheng 阮大鋮 (1587?–1646?), I hope to show that his contradictory image as both a talented playwright and a traitor to his country emerged from an ecosystem in which historical testimonies and literary texts mediated each other. I will start with Ruan Dacheng’s image as a playwright, contextualised within the development of drama criticism during the late Ming (1368–1644). Next, focusing on the essays written by or associated with Ruan’s contemporary, Mao Xiang 冒襄 (1611–1693), I will show that these materials not only conditioned the historical image of Ruan, but also that of his political rivals, such as Mao himself. Finally, I will conclude with Peach Blossom Fan by the early Qing dramatist Kong Shangren 孔尚任 (1648–1718), arguing that the play is better understood as the afterlife of that ecosystem.

Are We There Already, or Not Quite Yet?

Zooming-in on an “Unfinished” Country Exporting “Development”
11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room 3

  • Marina Rudyak, “Mind the Gap. Deconstructing the Narrative Of China’s Strategic And Monolithic Foreign Aid System”
  • Marius Meinhof, “‘Not Yet Rich but Already Old’—The Promotion of Filial Piety and the Idea of Backwardness/Modernisation”
  • Nicholas Loubere, “Unequal Extractions: Reconceptualising the Chinese Miner in Ghana”
  • Oyuna Baldakova, “China’s Solution for the Global South: Study of Belt and Road Investments in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan”

China has become a major development cooperation actor in the countries of the Global South. A growing body of work deals with the potential impact of Chinese actions, often portraying China as a monolithic actor. This panel seeks to challenge these monolithic narratives by zooming-in on different manifestations of “development” in relation to Chinese conceptions of being part of the Global South.
This panel covers two key aspects of China and development in the Global South. The first two papers examine official development narratives: Meinhof discusses how different state and non-state actors discuss China’s “backwardness”, which as a world-view has to be understood as deeply inscribed into Chinese discourses of modernity that rather than simply state ideology. Rudyak uses the case of Chinese aid to illustrate, how this world-view has been externalised to the Global South, with China seeking to share its development experience as the “most developed” among developing countries.
The second two papers turn to Chinese implementation practices of “development” on the ground: Baldakova zooms-in on Chinese investment flows in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan under the Belt and Road Initiative, showing how local structural factors play an important role in project implementation. Loubere focuses on the informal economic migration of small-scale gold miners from a poverty-stricken county in China to Ghana, examining how marginal Chinese actors operating outside state planning nevertheless take part in China’s developmental push in the Global South.
Together, the panellists argue that there are major gaps between the official state narratives and policies of development, and highlight the differentiated “development” manifestations and experiences of Chinese actors.

Marina Rudyak, “Mind the Gap. Deconstructing the Narrative Of China’s Strategic And Monolithic Foreign Aid System”

China has risen to the top ten of the world’s donors of development finance. In 2013, China’s President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); in 2018, China created a dedicated agency to manage its foreign aid—China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA). Numerous external observers assume that China’s development cooperation incl. BRI follows a clear cut strategy (or even a debt trap diplomacy) of challenging establishes international standards. The Chinese discourse, on the other hand, maintains that China’s development cooperation system is not yet “mature” and attribute the gaps between policies and practices to the learning process.
This paper, first, elaborates how Chinese development cooperation policy must be understood as an externalisation of China’s domestic discourse about the need to “develop”. While the Chinese government argues for the right to an independent development path for every country, it clearly tries to share China’s “unique” development lessons in the proposed Community of Shared Future. Second, it zooms-in on the policies and practices of development cooperation using the case of development lending. By highlighting the gaps between the official discourse, policies, and regulations, and their implementation, the paper elaborates on the process by which the system is trying to become more “mature.” Hereby it shows, that neither the Chinese aid policy nor the aid system is the monolithic entities as which they are often perceived from outside, but an assemblage of different—and often competing—actors, with differentiated interests and practices.

Marius Meinhof, “‘Not Yet Rich but Already Old’—The Promotion of Filial Piety and the Idea of Backwardness/Modernisation

My presentation will discuss the relation between filial piety (孝) and modernisation in China, especially the question how the idea of China as a not yet fully developed country corresponds with the promotion of the traditional virtue of filial piety. Since the semi-colonial era Chinese thinkers have produced descriptions of China as a country in need of modernisation. This modernisation narrative has been able to mobilise great collective agency but has often come at a price of constructing a hyperreal West as point of “external reference” for talking about the future. In the 21st century, state discourse as well as many popular discourses have sometimes tried to avoid these external references by invoking visions of future based on “traditional Chinese virtues” such as filial piety (孝) in order to root their identity in a sense of old historic culture, and to promote an idea of Chineseness that goes beyond the distinction of modern/backward. This, however, has not replaced the modernisation narrative but has been merged with it, so that notions of modernisation and traditional virtues are frequently related to one another and negotiated in respect to each other. My presentation will follow some of these negotiations by asking how the notion of a thousand of years old traditional virtue of filial piety corresponds to the idea of a China that is still under development and in need of a moral construction of its citizens.

Nicholas Loubere, “Unequal Extractions: Reconceptualising the Chinese Miner in Ghana”

Over the past decade, Chinese migration to Africa has increased rapidly alongside the expansion of Chinese economic engagement with the continent. The entrance of new forms of Chinese industry, aid, commerce, and resource exploration has been transformative, prompting debates over whether China in Africa is better described as neo-colonialism or a new form of beneficial developmentalism. One of the most dramatic examples of Chinese migration to—and economic engagement with—an African nation is the recent Chinese gold rush in Ghana, which started in the mid-2000s with the rapid influx of tens of thousands of small-scale gold miners from a single poor rural county in China, and continues to this day. This paper presents a critical examination of how the Chinese miners have been depicted in governmental, media, and academic discourse as a homogenous group, both benefiting from Ghanaian gold extraction and impacting their surroundings in generally uniform ways. Drawing on fieldwork in both Ghana and China, we argue that this portrayal neglects to highlight the differentiated experiences of the miners and the segmentation that exists within the miner group, which consists of both winners and losers. It also flattens out the complex ways in which the Chinese miners’ activities impact on local areas and populations in Ghana, as well as on households and left-behind populations in China.

Oyuna Baldakova, “China’s Solution for the Global South: Study of Belt and Road Investments in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan”

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has attracted heightened international attention and inspired polarising interpretations. Critics believe that the initiative could be a ‘debt trap’ and has a capacity to extract geo-strategic concessions from its debtors. Whereas admirers contend that China, drawing from its own experience, could help countries of the Global South tackle their structural bottlenecks and eventually enable them to repeat the trajectory of China’s rapid economic growth.
This paper presents an original analysis of the BRI from the perspective of international development cooperation. It compares China’s investments (its official and private flows) under the BRI framework in two countries of Central Asia—Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The paper argues that the proposed BRI projects often reflect an internal logic of China’s developmental model, but their implementation varies largely across the BRI countries. Local structural factors play an important role and are often overlooked in the analysis of the BRI at large.
To carry out this analysis, relevant primary documents, secondary literature, and statistical datasets of relevant national agencies were analysed. Furthermore, during my fieldwork at Peking University in China and KIMEP University in Kazakhstan from February till October 2018, I conducted semi-structured interviews with more than 60 experts and practitioners of different academic and institutional backgrounds.